NAPA (KTVU) -- Skyrocketing home prices in Sonoma County were to blame when a single mom and her young son ended up on the streets but thanks to the kindness of strangers -- specifically some local law enforcement officers -- the struggling family may end up in permanent housing.
Victoria Taneyhill works as a home care support professional who was in need of some help herself. She is grateful to be living -- albeit temporarily -- in a Sonoma County motel. She said she was evicted by family members who wanted to sell the house where she lived.
"It was awful, especially with a 10-year-old," she said. "I never expected to have to live in a car."
She says her relatives turned their backs on her and her young son, Haydn O'Connor.
"I don't know what I've done but what the heck did he do?" she said.
With soaring housing costs, Taneyhill and her son have been living for over a year in her car, which at times has been parked in a friend's driveway or on local streets or parking lots. The family eats breakfasts at fast food restaurants so they can wash up before school and work.
A welfare check by someone who saw the two on Dec. 13 to ask sheriff's deputies to check in with the disheveled boy late at night may prove to be a turning point for the family.
"I was just at a free WiFi place playing video games at like 10 o'clock," Haydn said.
Sonoma County sheriff's Deputy Mike Vail said deputies wanted to ensure that the boy was safe. Taneyhill said she thought deputies would remove her son from her custody.
"I thought they were going to take my son," she said. "Well, they didn't. They just helped."
Deputies Ryan Patrick and Greg Bone chose to pay for a room for mother and son and to buy them some groceries to tide them over a few days.
"What we found out about Victoria and her son is they're both trying hard to get themselves out of their situation and just couldn't do it," Vail said. "Mom works a full time job, has been through a lot of hard times (but) hasn't given up on herself or her son (who) goes to school every day.
"She makes sure that happens and it's put a lot of strain on her," he said. "So we felt we needed to do a little bit more for her and (try to) get her back on her feet if at all possible."
The Sonoma County Deputy Sheriff's Association and a local homeless advocate set up a GoFundMe site to raise $10,000 to get her into an apartment or trailer and repair her failing car.
"She's a great mom," Vail said. "I wish more parents took the time to take their kids to school and do what they do."
The struggling mom set up a Christmas tree, retrieved from a dumpster, in an effort to give her son some semblance of a normal Christmas.
"It could happen to anybody," Taneyhill said. "And it's hard.
To contribute to the family's GoFundMe: Click here
By KTVU reporter Tom Vacar.